i had a frank capra moment today when i went to vote.
my precinct is in the multi-purpose room of the local elementary school. today, there were 4 precinct workers and two other voters besides myself, a middle-aged yuppie kind of guy and an old hippie-ish man. when yuppie guy and i entered about the same time, one of the workers was explaining the ballot and how to fill in the little circles in a rather brusque manner to the old man. i noticed how intently he was paying attention to the instructions despite the tone in which they were being delivered. the old man was scruffy--he had lots of white hair that hadn't seen a comb spilling out from underneath a well-worn red baseball cap that at one time had had an emblem on the front. his beard and eyebrows were thick, bushy and uneven. he wore a dingy white t-shirt and a pair of cutoff jean shorts with a pair of sneakers that looked as old as i am. he took the ballot and the pen and leaned on his cane as he walked towards the little cardboard counter to fill out the ballot.
by this time, yuppie man had checked in and it was my turn. i took my ballot and was thinking to myself, "yeah, yeah" as i was receiving the same brusque instructions as the old man and yuppie had before me. i took my ballot to a little cardboard counter and was filling it in when out of the corner of my eye, i noticed the old man was just standing in front of the row of 4 precinct workers. he set his ballot sleeve and pen on the table and one of the workers peeled off the "i voted" sticker and offered it to him wordlessly. as he took the sticker he said, "i'm always so happy to vote here" in an accent i didn't recognize. and he continued "it's not like it was where i grew up. there men with machine guns would ask you how you voted when you left. you didn't give them the wrong answer. and if they weren't outside the door, they would find you with the purple ink and ask you then. but none of that here. it doesn't matter how i vote here. here i vote for what i really believe." the precinct worker said something to him i couldn't hear, but he responded with a smile and nod and he turned and left.
i turned back and finished my ballot. the first proposition on the ballot was one to require mandatory reporting to parents for abortions for girls under 18. i'd already voted against it by the time i heard the old man speak. i know with many people and christians especially, my choice would be unpopular, even condemned by some. but i also realized i was able to vote what i'd believed and even those who would condemn it won't be holding a machine gun. i feel so blessed to be an american tonite.